Thank you to Julie Snead, head teacher at Whitley & Eggborough County Primary School, for sending us her reflections on the sessions with children, (on days one and two) which formed part of our visit to the school this week:
“As I began to watch, I saw the children looking on, almost in amazement. They were so intrigued and enthralled. Throughout the whole experience it was interesting to see how the children reacted to Tim’s humour. Also, it was fantastic to observe how ‘Mr. Walker’ (Tim’s walking stick) could be used with all age groups, from Y1/2 to Y5/6 and the many different ways in which Mr. Walker was used. The Y5/6 children obviously enjoyed creating ‘uses’ for Mr. Walker. Some were quite imaginative, e.g., ‘You could put your pet worms in it!’ It was intriguing to see how the wireless mouse could be operated (secretly, without the children knowing) but it was Mr. Walker to navigate the landscape of the imaginary world.
It was fabulous to see how Tim engaged with the children’s ideas and suggestions. Every idea mattered and was important. Each child was special -‘I need to know your name.’ The children were completely drawn into the image on the screen and eagerly discussed all possibilities. Every child was TOTALLY engaged. ‘I need to hear more’ encouraged the development of ideas and thoughts as with ‘I like this idea, tell me a bit more’, followed by a sip or a long drink from the cup -which ever was needed. (It was interesting to see how the KS2 children had understood the reason for the cup!) Alternative vocabulary was gradually fed in adding to and developing their work further as a means of modelling expectations.
‘Can I come back?’ was often used if the children’s ideas dried up, then other ideas for development were gradually drip fed to enable the children to develop their thoughts further. Tim always went back, again giving an importance to the child’s ideas. Are you up for a challenge? encouraged the sense of wanting to achieve.
Throughout the sessions, so much encouragement was continually given, celebrating the children‘s ideas. They were pushed into discussing their ideas in such a positive way. There was such a ‘need’ for hearing what the children thought. There was no right or wrong idea. When writing, I really liked the notion of ‘nicking ideas but only if you add something and polish them up.’
Tim also said ‘Don’t worry about the spellings’ which prevented the children from getting hung up on spelling and encouraged the flow and generation of the writing and ideas. The children were so eager to write down their ideas – even those who would claim to not liking writing! The adults writing alongside the children added importance to the task – EVERYONE wants to write!
You could observe just how powerful the visual image on the screen actually is as the writers kept checking the screen – some totally immersed in the image and sound as if each time they looked they spotted something else, something new – what a simple yet stunning way to get the children thinking, wondering, imagining! No-one appeared to be sitting and worrying about what to write – everyone had ideas.
When sharing the children’s ideas, I loved the way in which the child’s work was used as though it was Tim’s own work – again neat writing and commas were fed in, encouraging the listeners to check their own work. The writer was then praised with ‘ this is not a good piece of writing – it’s a fantastic piece of writing! The use of paragraphs and questions were added at a pertinent moment, again allowing the children to review and check their work. The most special time for me was when the children shared their written work. The hairs prickled on the back of my neck and I felt so emotional as the children and adults in the room gradually began reading out a section of their work to the Tim’s heartbeat rhythm.
It was such a memorable moment as, even the children who would normally shy away from voicing their ideas, spoke out proudly for all to hear. What a special and beautiful moment!
All the way through the session there was a strong focus on improving the work – the word, the language, the sentence, the paragraph. Tim would say, ‘ You can’t use mine, mine’s rubbish!’ ‘Use suddenly only when something sudden happens.’ He would then offer alternatives, including the punctuation, such as ‘In the corner of my eye (comma).’ Questions such as ‘Shall we go for a walk?’ or ‘Shall we go out of that door?’ followed by a unanimous ‘YES’ were used very powerfully, keeping the children hanging on, wanting more, but then they quite happily moved to the next point of discussion or activity, in the knowledge that they would finally see more.
Role play, gestures and facial expressions, ‘What’s happening?’ ‘Have a witter to the person next to you.’ ‘Give …… a ripple.’ all became such important and integral parts of the lesson in encouraging and praising the children’s spoken and written work. The way Tim took off his jacket or untucked his shirt gave the impression that he was physically getting stuck into the job!
Interviewing the expert e.g. bird specialist, gardener really linked in excellently with our Mantle of the Expert work and demonstrated how the children can take on the role and become part of the imaginary world. This was perfect in showing the staff how this approach could effectively further integrate literacy within our Mantle of the Expert curriculum. The interpreter role was then added to develop the children’s language - the use of different/alternative language and ways of saying things. As the session progressed, the children were speaking much more freely with Tim facilitating and interjecting at times to ensure progress e.g. ‘How else could we say that?’ ‘Tell them about the funny part when…./the tragic tale about….’
The whole Tim experience was like a wonderful journey. It ebbed and flowed, with silences not being seen as sticking points but as thinking time – we all too often jump in if a child stops speaking.
Following the training, everyone is now buzzing with excitement and ideas and on behalf of everyone at Whitley and Eggborough Community Primary School, I would like to say a huge thank you to Tim & Sarah for a truly amazing & unforgettable two days”.